Mindfulness Eases Pain and Stress in Patients with Cholangiocarcinoma and Other Cancers

Engaging in different mindfulness techniques can help ease both pain in stress in patients with cancer.
Have you ever arrived at work and then wondered how you got there, since you couldn’t remember one minute of your drive? If you have, and especially if you spent your drive time ruminating, you may be overlooking an important method for making your life happier: mindfulness.

“Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something,” says Heidi Lowitzer, R.N., C.C.R.N., a critical care nurse at Buffalo General Medical Center, in New York, who discussed the therapeutic technique during the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation Annual Conference in Utah on Feb. 1. “It’s a mental state achieved by focusing awareness on the present moment and calmly accepting our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Mindfulness is a coping mechanism that will help bring beauty and peace and joy into our lives, no matter what the situation.”

Lowitzer shared tips about the technique with patients and their loved ones during a talk about complementary and integrative medicine during the conference. Having lost her husband to intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma in November 2012, Lowitzer has since been volunteering with the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation and serving on its Nursing Advisory Board. In giving the talk, she was joined by Monica Del Rosso, R.N., B.S.N., O.C.N., an oncology nurse at Orange Regional Medical Center, in New York — and also a practitioner of reiki, a therapy that uses light touch to achieve relaxation — who gave an overview of integrative therapies including yoga and acupuncture.

About 8,000 people are diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, bile duct cancer, each year in the United States. The relative five-year survival rate for people with the disease is 15 percent if the cancer is localized at diagnosis, 6 percent if the cancer has spread regionally prior to diagnosis and 2 percent if it has metastasized to distant locations within the body.

Mainly, the disease is treated with surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy.

Palliative treatments are also prescribed by doctors, and adding integrative therapies may further help to increase quality of life.

Integrative Therapies

Integrative therapies can complement the conventional therapies prescribed to patients with various types of cancer, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted or hormonal drugs, radiation, surgery and stem cell transplants. These supportive therapies, Del Rosso says, may help ease the side effects of the conventional treatments, which can include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, pain, neuropathy, anorexia and emotional issues including anxiety, fear, sadness, grief, depression and concern over the loss of physical attractiveness.

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